Are You Burning People Out with Change?

“I don’t have time to learn Kanban” was the message written on a sticky note during last week’s retrospective.

Following that was a discussion around how some people are working 12 or more hours per day, and through lunch.

I’ve had a few hallway conversations from people about how they feel they want to learn new techniques we’re introducing, they simply can’t find the time. Adding to this are some comments from a recent ADKAR assessment we sent out that echo symptoms of change fatigue.

My experience is leading me to believe there are too many changes of different magnitude being pushed too often so what can be done about it?

For starters, I need to understand my own bias’. I have heightened sensitivity to the softer side of change and need to make sure I’m not inventing a larger problem. The next thing I need to recognize is that some people exhibiting symptoms of change fatigue can simply be in chaos (Satir model) which is natural. It’s possible the majority is pleased with the pace of change.

These are other factors important to consider when introducing change:

  • ask yourself what problem you are trying to solve and recognize that odds are that solution will cause more problems.
  • recognize when people complain about problems, they may simply need to blow off steam
  • helping people through chaos may feel nice but it can cheat them of learning (Becoming a Change Artist -Gerry Weinberg)
  • what tactic is best? Pull? Sense-Provoke-Respond?
  • what level of learning are the people receiving the change at when introducing a new practice? Shu-Ha-Ri

We recently introduced retrospectives to a handful of people, oddly enough one manager was upset his team wasn’t invited to the first sessions and he is one of the people complaining about being pushed too many changes. If I could have crammed all 300 people in a 15 person capacity room, I would have!

I think I’m rambling now. My point is as change agents we need to recognize the organization and it’s people are our customers. We need to be aware if what pace they can sustain, understand how people transition through change, when they’re simply complaining and when they can be poked more often. There’s a bunch of tactics you can employ to roll out change in a less disruptive way.

Test out new practices on one team, give them a few weeks ( and time!) to try it and let them do a lunch and learn on what they learned.

You can also move to a pull based approach. Introduce the idea of new practices and see who bites.

Identify who wants to step up and be a change champion for their team.

That’s only a few, as change agents it’s up to us to listen to what the system is telling us and react accordingly.